Sunday, August 31, 2008

This Date in Dance History August 31-September 5

August 31, 1748-French ballet dancer Jean-Étienne Despréaux was born. In the days when complicated court dancing was a requisite for anyone who wanted to climb the social ladder, the dancer , choreographer and teacher was a highly valued member of society. Napoleon himself took dance lessons with Despreaux. Despreaux was also the husband of Marie-Madeleine Guimard, one of the eras most famous ballerinas.

September 1, 1996
- Then a record-breaking crowd of 72,000 performed The Chicken Dance at the Canfield Fair in Ohio earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

September 2, 2006-Willi Ninja, known as “the godfather of vogueing” passed away. Ninja was a self-taught dancer who became a fixture in Harlem ballrooms and was featured in the documentary film Paris is Burning. His vogueing style, which consists of a combination of model-like poses and creative arm, leg and body movements, inspired Madonna’s “Vogue” music video.

September 3, 1910- A musical revue called The International Cup, the Ballet of Niagra and the Earthquake closed on this date at the Hippodrome Theater in New York.

September 4, 1890- Antonia Merce, stage-named La Argentina, the most celebrated Spanish dancer of the early 20th century was born on this date. Excerpts from her biography including many photographs are available via Google Books.

And on this date in 1970- Natalya Makarova, leading ballerina of the Kirov Ballet, sought and obtained political asylum in London. She went on to join American Ballet Theater.

September 5, 1967- Robert Joffrey’s Asarte ballet opens at the New York City Center. Joffrey describes it as “modern as a psychedelic fantasy.”

And on this date in 1993- Jelly's Last Jam closed on Broadway after 569 performances. The play starred Gregory Hines in the role of Jelly Roll Morton. "
Mr. Hines's brilliance is no secret," wrote Frank Rich in the New York Times. "Few, if any, tap dancers in this world can match him for elegance, speed, grace and musicianship, and, as if that weren't enough, he also happens to be a silken jazz crooner, supple in voice and plaintive in emotions. In the role of Jelly Roll Morton, Mr. Hines gets to display these gifts to the fullest, not to mention his relatively unsung prowess as an actor. Even when the band is taking a break, every note he hits rings true."